Since announcing their new “Race Together” initiative to combat race relations, Starbucks has been met with mixed reactions. Many believe the company is using the topic of race as a prop, while others slammed them over a lack of people of color in the accompanying campaign.
In an op-ed for Medium, Starbucks’ Senior Vice President of Global Communications, Corey duBrowa, explained how the online backlash caused him to delete his Twitter account Monday night. He also explained the company’s overall campaign goal and why he came back to the media platform 24 hours later.
“Last night I felt personally attacked in a cascade of negativity,” duBrowa said in a post on Medium. “I got overwhelmed by the volume and tenor of the discussion, and I reacted.”
He also says the discussion to begin #RaceTogether was just as tough, but he learned that an open dialogue can help others learn perspectives on different races and cultures.
“So no matter how ugly the discussion has been since I shut my account down, I’m reaffirming my belief in the power of meaningful, civil, thoughtful, respectful open conversation — on Twitter and everywhere else. I believe in it personally, and Starbucks believes in it at the core of our company’s values. It’s this belief that led us to host a series of open forums with our partners in some of the communities most affected by the recent flareups of racial tension across the country. In those meetings, we heard loud and clear that we, as a company, have an opportunity to engage on this topic, no matter how difficult.”
Meanwhile, DJ Jay Smooth showed off a perfect example of how a conversation about race would happen in Starbucks during his appearance on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. As the writer spoke with Hayes and CBS Sunday Morning’s Nancy Giles, a clip of Smooth’s popular YouTube clip, “How To Tell If Someone’s Racist” played.
While Giles accused Smooth of stealing “black” tendencies in his video, Smooth proved the point that some people aren’t ready to talk about race in an effective way:
“It’s another interesting funny thing about race,” Giles said. “Like, there would be some people that would feel that you co-opted something like that, and other people might feel like that’s his background and that’s really cool too… These are conversations, you know, ‘Yo, like ya know, yeah, if somebody takes my wallet,’ I mean it’s really interesting.”
“It’s also interesting because I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise,” said Smooth, so patiently. “And this is the sort of awkwardness we can look forward to at Starbucks across America.”
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